All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The unique writing style made it go a little slow for me at first, but I got used to it. Donal Ryan shows his genius by precisely capturing universal emotional experiences and then turning up the volume on them in this book.

The story is about intense guilt with a longing for atonement. Although the protagonist is in a situation that is foreign to me, her suffering was relatable. It is normal to feel shame and guilt over our own small infractions. To feel that on behalf of the protagonist, she needed to be uniquely awful and she was. Internally, she roiled with regret. Externally, she continued with her harmful patterns. I think that is the relationship most of us have with our negative patterns even after we’ve recognized them.

Similarly, the protagonist was uniquely alienated in her own life. She’s given a chance for redemption and because her situation is so exaggerated, I couldn’t help but feel the desperation of her situation on her behalf, which echoed the smaller, lower stakes situations in my own life.

The most impressive part is that Ryan makes an unlikeable protagonist sympathetic to the reader by creating this relatable emotional landscape.

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